The Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, participated in the Informal Meeting of the European Union’s Defence Ministers that was held today, 26 August 2020, in Berlin. He comprehensively informed his counterparts, as well as the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg and the UN Under-Secretary General for Peace-keeping Operations, Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who attended the first Working Session on the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean after Turkey’s provocative actions.
During the first Working Session, Mr. Panagiotopoulos highlighted the security and stability challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean as a result of Turkey’s unlawful conduct within the area of the Greek continental shelf. He stressed that Turkey’s revisionist attitude and its destabilizing unlawful interference in the Eastern Mediterranean constitute a serious infringement of Greece’s sovereign rights and give rise to the risk of leading to further escalation of tension in the region.
Furthermore, the Minister made it clear to his counterparts that Greece, in full respect of international law, faces this challenge in a coherent manner and defends its national sovereignty and the external borders of the European Union to the fullest, highlighting the important and demanding work of the Greek Armed Forces. However, he also stressed the European Union’s obligation to maximize its vigilance and to assume its role, so that the environment of peace, security and stability in the region would be restored.
During the discussion on the cooperation between the EU and partners in the operational part of the Common Security and Defence Policy, Mr. Panagiotopoulos pointed out that the cooperation with third countries should be conditional upon the latter sharing EU’s principles and values, while he recognized the consistently positive and constructive cooperation between EU and NATO, underlining however that any development of cooperation should be based on the principle of autonomy of each Organization in decision-making.
As regards the remaining items on the agenda, the Minister of National Defence particularly emphasized our Country’s support of processes, such as the strategic compass, which aim at developing a strategic culture within the European Union, so that the latter would be able to initiate autonomous action where circumstances so require.
Over the working dinner that followed the discussion, he did not fail to refer to the importance of preserving EU’s resilience to multiple challenges lurking during the present period, attaching particular importance to the demonstration of solidarity and readiness on the part of the Member States and to the emphasis that should be given to the strengthening of their defence capabilities.
In the margins of the working sessions, the Minister of National Defence had constructive bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Portugal, Mr. João Gomes Cravinho, from Denmark Ms. Trine Bramsen, from the Netherlands Ms. Ank Bijleveld, from Sweden Mr. Peter Hultqvist and from Romania Mr. Nicolae Ionel Ciucă. Separate meetings were also held with the German Minister of Defence, Ms. Annegret Kramp – Karrenbauer, and the North Atlantic Alliance Secretary General, at their request.
At the end of the Informal Meeting of the European Union’s Defence Ministers, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos made the following statement:
“Today I had the opportunity during the Informal Meeting of the European Union’s Defence Ministers to comprehensively inform my counterparts, but also the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg and the UN Under-Secretary General, Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, on the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s provocative actions within the area of the Greek continental shelf.
I made clear that Greece, in full respect of International Law, defends its sovereign rights and I also stressed that Turkey’s aggressive and unlawful conduct, in conjunction with the presence of a large number of naval units in the region, increases the risk of accidents and leads to further escalation of tension.
I underlined that there can be no dialogue with Turkey as long as Turkish ships are situated in the area.
I explained that Turkey’s threats and provocative actions taken against the sovereign rights of EU Members States endanger the security of the European Union itself and the stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the margins of the working sessions, I had separate meetings with my German counterpart, Ms. Annegret Kramp – Karrenbauer, updating her in detail on the Turkish provocativeness, and with the NATO Secretary General Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, drawing his attention to the fact that NATO’s policy of impartiality is detrimental not only for our country but also for the cohesion of the Alliance and therefore, it is not acceptable”.